Defending Women of One’s Community and Outside: Mrs Walsalam Rose

[A noteworthy aspect of the interventions of the representatives of Women in the Travancore and Cochin legislative bodies was that these women were representatives of the women of both their communities as well as of Women in the general sense. There was no contradiction perceived between these two roles them — which came to be perceived much later. Mrs Walsalam Rose’s intervention in 1932 in the Shree Mulam Praja Assembly is an excellent illustration. The imagination of the ideal life for women as essentially that of “good mothers, efficient housewives, and responsible citizens,”  bolstered with equal property rights and compulsory education was a dominant strain in early feminist articulations of women’s rights, and this was already being critiqued by other feminists as early as the 1930s] Continue reading “Defending Women of One’s Community and Outside: Mrs Walsalam Rose”

Marriage in the Interest of Nambutiri Women: Elizabeth Kuruvila

[Below is an intervention made by Elizabeth Kuruvila who represented ‘Women’ in the Travancore Legislative Council during the debate on the Travancore Nambutiri Bill in 1930, in response to an Amendment moved by Jathavedan Nambutiripad which stipulated that if the Karanavan of a Nambutiri joint family d]id not marry off a female member, then a younger male member of the family could take the initiative to do so. This intervention shows how crucial the role of members representing Women could be in exposing the pitfalls of legislation allegedly in the interest of women (among others). Elizabeth Kuruvila supports the Amendment, but with important changes.] Continue reading “Marriage in the Interest of Nambutiri Women: Elizabeth Kuruvila”

A Reply: Thottaikkattu Madhavi Amma

Translated by J Devika

Thottaikkattu Madhavi Amma (1888- 1968) was born in Ernakulam. Her mother, Thottikkattu Ikkavu Amma was a well-known playwright whose play Subhadrarjunam won much critical acclaim in the late 19th century. Madhavi Amma gained proficiency in Malayalam, Sanskrit, English and other European languages and was known as a poet and commentator on poetry. Her major works are Hemapanjaram (a translation of Seeta Chatterjee’s A Cage of Gold), Saradamani and Tatvachinta. She was active in the Ernakulam Women’s Association and was nominated an unofficial member to the Legislative Council of Kochi in 1925. She was the President of the Women’s Conference held as part of the Nair Conference at Karuvatta in 1929. In 1932, she married the prominent Nair reformer, Mannath Padmanabhan. This short article was a response to a pen-portrait published by the Malayala Manorama in a series on the members of the Kochi Legislative Council. Continue reading “A Reply: Thottaikkattu Madhavi Amma”

Women’s Honour and the Travancore Census Report, 1941: T Narayani Amma Responds

[This short speech, below, by T Narayani Amma who represented the constituency Women in the Travancore Sree Mulam Assembly was part of the debate over the Adjournment Motion moved by Puliyoor TP Velayudhan Pillai on 26 January 1943 which claimed that the Census Report of Travancore of 1941 contained scandalous untruths about Marumakkathayi women in the state (besides untruths about savarna opposition to the spirit of the Temple Entry Proclamation). The Census Report contained statements that claimed (rather colourfully) that many women had become economically insecure after the dismantling of the joint family system and so were resorting to loose arrangements in order to secure “their daily bread.” To establish this, the Census Commissioner cited the statistics of larger number of married females compared to married males. Pillai expressed “great pain, sorrow, and disappointment” at this statement as he moved the Motion. Several other male members, including Pillai, supported the Motion, vehemently opposing this alleged attack on “the chastity of the whole of womenfolk of Travancore” (Pillai’s statement) and many indignant speeches followed. In general, the Census Commissioner Narayanan Tampi was accused of denigrating the respectability of women in Travancore with any real data on it. In general, they were also convinced that Marumakkathayi women would never “swerve from the path of true honour and chastity” (Sadasyatilakan T K Velu Pillai). Continue reading “Women’s Honour and the Travancore Census Report, 1941: T Narayani Amma Responds”

‘Malabarising’ the Indian/Hindu Family? Lakshmi N Menon in the Hindu Code Bill Debate

Below is a long excerpt from the Rajya Sabha debate of 1 October 1955, in which Lakshmi N Menon put up a very strong defence of women’s property rights in the discussion of the Hindu Code Bill. It is brilliant intervention in debate, one which should make every Malayali woman proud. Continue reading “‘Malabarising’ the Indian/Hindu Family? Lakshmi N Menon in the Hindu Code Bill Debate”

Wives of Officials Not to Contest Election? — Dr (Mrs) T Francis

[In response to the restriction on the wives of officials contesting the elections. Dr (Mrs T) Francis, who was elected from the Ernakulam constituency to represent women, objected strongly to this. Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Council, 8 February 1947, pp 475-76. Dr Mrs T Francis was a passionate advocate for women’s rights in the Cochin Legislative Council, though sadly enough we do not know much about her. ] Continue reading “Wives of Officials Not to Contest Election? — Dr (Mrs) T Francis”

Resolution Banning Untouchability in Kochi: Dakshayani Velayudhan

[Speaking in the discussion on a resolution demanding a ban on untouchability through a Royal Proclamation. Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Assembly 11 August 1945, 635-36 . This is originally in Malayalam; I have translated it below.] Continue reading “Resolution Banning Untouchability in Kochi: Dakshayani Velayudhan”